I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work. (p. 34)This reminds me somewhat of my pre-conversion experience. Granted, I was not nearly as dedicated as Martin Luther, but I had a similar view of my life. I was chaste, and I served the church. I did many things, and the activities of the Lord's kingdom became the activities that were placed front and center in my life. However, my own false sense of my own righteousness fooled me.
I can truly empathize with Brother Martin who tried so hard to live a good life. However, Bainton makes it clear that "the trouble was that he could not satisfy God at any point" (p. 34). Constantly working under the pressure that you'll never measure up is a rather disconcerting condition. Sadly, I feel that it is the condition of many. I am reminded of a short phrase used by Dr. Moore in a chapel sermon during the past semester or so. He uttered a string of phrases that spoke of conversion experiences that included something similar to "or the 7-year-old boy saved from a life of Southern Baptist self-righteousness."
Bainton quotes Luther's comments on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, which described the "disillusionment" of his lost condition and how he viewed righteousness and holiness:
This word is too high and too hard that anyone should fulfill it. This is proved, not merely by our Lord's word, but by our own experience and feeling. Take any upright man or woman. He will get along very nicely with those who do not provoke him, but let someone proffer only the slightest irritation and he will flare up in anger...if not against friends, then against enemies. Flesh and blood cannot rise above it. (p. 34)Luther recognized his own sinful nature, and Bainton adds that he "simply had not the capacity to fulfill the conditions" (p. 34).
However, God cannot allow sin into His presence. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is my righteousness! I have no goodness of my own that I can claim as my entrance into heaven. Instead, I come by the blood and plead the righteousness of Christ by grace through faith.
If you're a believer, thank God that Jesus Christ was the sacrifice for you. If you're not, consider why God should allow you into His heaven. He demands perfection, and if you're not trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, you only have your own righteousness to claim. However, human "righteousness" at its best is only filthy rags, which means that you'll never measure up on your own. Turn to Christ! Repent and place all your trust in Him.
If you're unsure of your standing with God, please feel free to e-mail me. For so many years, I was too ashamed to admit to another person that I didn't think I was really a Christian. I was afraid to seek out a believer out of fear. What would they think of me if I were to admit that I, although a minister, was lost and not a Christian, living a false life serving a Christ who was not really my Savior?
Thankfully, the Lord convicted me, and I could not escape so great a salvation. I e-mailed Dr. Moore and, for the first time, really expressed that I knew that I was lost for all of those years. I wished I would have surrendered sooner, and I don't want you to be slowly sliding toward eternal destruction due to the same fears that I had. Ultimately, it was pride that was keeping me from God, and I'm thankful that He invaded my life, broke through the pride of my heart, and rescued me from my slide into the torment of hell. He gave me peace!
Truly, these are matters of life and death, and I encourage you to e-mail me or seek out a Christian. Make sure of your standing with God, and do not make the mistake of letting pride keep you from humbling yourself to admit your need. God is near to the humble, and He is mighty to save those who come to Him by grace through faith.